Nepal | August 12, 2020

TOPICS: An unapologetic vegetarian

Sneha Gyawali
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I became a vegetarian at the age of fourteen.It was something I decided to do on the spur of the moment after watching Earthlings (a documentary that highlights humankind’s exploitation of animals), and I had given very little thought to the consequences that would follow my decision to stop eating meat forever.

“What! Why? What’s wrong with you?” was just one of the many remarks I started receiving from friends and relatives alongside such common questions as “Where do you plan on getting your protein from?” and “Don’t plants feel pain too?” These were all questions that never looked for my well thought-out answers, just reflexes people had upon hearing the words, “I’m a vegetarian.”

I immediately began to feel a sense of obligation to apologize for my “inconvenient” diet whenever I went out for a meal with people who weren’t already aware of my ‘situation.’

Nonetheless, having to order a veggie wrap in front of someone ordering a chicken burger had become a nightmare for me, not only because I was tired of answering to accusatory questions, but also because I always feared they would think I was perpetuating some extreme vegan or vegetarian stereotype­  even though a veggie wrap was just a veggie wrap.

Recently, however, I made the decision to change my mentality: I’ve decided not to simply be a vegetarian, but an unapologetic one at that.

I’ve decided to be unapologetic because apologizing for your stance on a cause does not help the cause at all.

The first step, I realized, was for me to stop shying away from my vegetarianism. I could not be like one of those organizations: advocating a cause without facing all of its hard, inconvenient truths and consequences.

I could not let a “I’m sorry, but I’m vegetarian” be the end to a conversation that could otherwise lead to more awareness and understanding about both being a vegetarian and the bigger issue of sustainability.

Animal agriculture is a deep-rooted part of many, many people’s lives.

When I apologize for being a vegetarian, I miss the chance to have a meaningful conversation with someone about sustainability (which does not necessarily have to begin with vegetarianism).

In this world of ever-growing buildings and cattle-grazing lands, being a vegetarian is only a baby step towards sustainability.

But it is a baby step that I should not apologize for.

A version of this article appears in print on May 16, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.

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